Friday, October 26, 2012

A Question: Autism in the Media

Due to this sinus infection I have being creative today isn't happening. However, I wanted to rerun this post as I got asked yesterday what my opinion was on how it's being portrayed now. I heard a mix, but one thing I heard that I had not heard yet was, because of the Big Bang Theory, employers are now expecting ALL people with Asperger Syndrome to be a Sheldon. So keep that in mind as you read this original post from February 2011...

Today's post is going to be a bit different because today I want your input.

Last night while watching a little television there was an ad for a show that was on later that involved, well, the ad sounded something like this, "Will the detectives be able to connect to the mind of an autistic son who holds the secret to his parents kidnapping?" The exact quote is not word for word, but the primary meaning is still there.

Now my question is this; Is the way autism is portrayed in television getting more or less accurate? Is it being sensationalized or exploited? Or is it being used in a tasteful way that could help increase awareness?

I don't watch a lot of television outside of news and sports so I am missing out on most of these shows. During presentations I get a lot of question of what I think about Sheldon on Big Bang Theory or what I think of the show Parenthood. I say, "I get asked that all the time, but haven't seen it." so today I am asking you what you think. Have we come along way since Rain Man? Are the shows of today tasteful without exploiting?  I currently have no opinion therefore I am asking yours. Let the discussion begin.


  1. I am a big fan of the show "Bones." A few years ago, I was trying to get Aaron to watch it because I felt like Bones portrayed a lot of the same characteristics as Aaron. At the time I hadn't done any research on whether the writers intentionally portrayed here as being Autistic or not. I did some research right before this post and found that she (Bones) could be based on a person that had Asperger Syndrome. So, I would say this show portrays it pretty well since I was able to pick up on it without really thinking about it, and long before reading Aarons book, or the blog.

  2. Here is a list of characters that are thought/known to portray Autism

  3. its so much better than it was!

  4. Parenthood is doing a good job. Most shows are doing rather well, actually.

    As for Bones, I thought she was
    Aspberger's, too, but she doesn't have any anxiety issues that are shown.

  5. While the portrayals might be accurate and building awareness is good, it seems to me that ASD is being exploited and pretty soon it will be multiple personality disorder that becomes the boutique problem. It's one thing to watch an episode of a TV drama but it is another thing for people to hear your story and be able to ask questions. The one thing that the TV shows can't do Aaron is to give the hope that you give families.

    1. Jim, I agree with you. Before I started working for Touch Point Autism I worked for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. When I first started at DMH over 10 years ago our "boutique problem" was ADHD and here more recently our "boutique problem" has been Autism. This can be both good and bad. Good because it builds (hopefully) more awareness and funding seems to increase for these. The bad is once it is no longer the "boutique problem" it seems to be forgotten which is unfortunate. I don't have a solution to this, but certainly understand your point.

  6. Last night the show that was on, was my favorite show called, "Criminal Minds". I was worried as I have seen some shows that I have felt were bad. I think the writers on Criminal Minds are wonderful. I felt they did a great job. As you say, Aaron, everyone on the spectrum is different. This character was very much like a student of mine. There was a scene, that I totally, as a mother, felt. --you and I, as your mother, had a similar scene of our own like it. Awareness is never bad if not exploitd. Perhaps the general public will be aware too that there are more on the spectrum now. I did see Dr.Oz last week and I did not like his show. Too much on vacines and finding a "cure", rather than working to help those that are dealing with it. It made me proud that you give hope because that show was a real downer. Love mom

  7. I think that it's being exploited.

  8. There are some shows that portray it better now, but it's still not enough of them and even then it's usually still off.
    The character usually looks the TOTAL other way (not just a bit as is usually more the case) and moves around and has trouble speaking or doesn't speak at all.
    Because of these shows I one time had this response:
    "You're on the autism spectrum? But you can talk!"
    Yes people I can talk! I'm not a retard and I actually know in which general direction you are!
    Also, someone once pointed out 'Adam' for me to watch. Can I be honest and say I hated the movie? Yes, I think the Asperger's wasn't even that badly portrayed.


    But still. The woman tried to change every problem he had and then he has one explosion and she leaves him. Then the movie ends like it's a good ending, because hey, he learned some new things and can work on himself from there on.
    Erm...? She KNEW he had Asperger's, tried to change him, he has one explosion, she goes rambling about how she thought he tried, but he actually hadn't changed at all and was a wining child.
    Like erm... You can work on your issues, but autism doesn't disappear you know? With autism problems can affect you more and that's what happened to him. She KNEW he had problems, but once they actually affected HER, she ran.
    I hated the ending. I absolutely hated the ending. It actually almost made me dispair for my own love life, when I suddenly slapped myself in the face, telling myself that doesn't need to be my future.

    So erm yea... Sorry for that rage writing... I had to get that out of my system. But I just mean... Adam is supposed to be one of the newer and more accurate Asperger's movies, but to me it just portrayed it very badly, as being a horrible thing that won't allow you to have a relationship.

  9. I'm actually attending a screening of this movie at the latter part of the month of May so I am interested in my opinions of this after I view it.

  10. Oh I wonder what your opinion will be then! Be sure to write a blog post about it (or mail me if you don't want to devote a blog post to that) :)